Karen Russell is able to ride the line between realism and magical realism that puts you in a headspace where you're not quite sure what is life. And that's pretty much the hallmark of great fiction... leaving you a bit disoriented and questioning what you know to be true. The characters are flawed in the most interesting way. The main character's immaturity is honest and refreshing is exactly the vehicle Russell needed to take us from Swamplandia! to the under world.
And also... I kinda want to wrestle an alligator!
Thirteen-year-old Ava Bigtree has lived her entire life at Swamplandia!, her family’s island home and gator-wrestling theme park in the Florida Everglades. But when illness fells Ava’s mother, the park’s indomitable headliner, the family is plunged into chaos; her father withdraws, her sister falls in love with a spooky character known as the Dredgeman, and her brilliant big brother, Kiwi, defects to a rival park called The World of Darkness. As Ava sets out on a mission through the magical swamps to save them all, we are drawn into a lush and bravely imagined debut that takes us to the shimmering edge of reality.